Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Learning to Pray
I’ve always wanted to know how to pray. Not merely asking God for things, but to truly understand how to praise God and seek his wisdom, guidance and divine hand for myself and those I love.
Last week I came across some recommended readings by Ann Voskamp. If you haven’t checked out her blog, A Holy Experience, you should!
She has listed “The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime” by Phyllis Tickle, and I went straight to Amazon to order it.
For the past six days I’ve read the prayers at specific times of the day. Reading prayers may sound mechanical and droll, but the words of these prayers, mostly scripture itself, quickly become deeply personal.
The beautiful passages have given me a profound outlook on the meaning of prayer.
There’s a long history in the church of praying what Tickle refers to as the offices (the work of God) at set times each day. I didn’t grow up in a church that focused on church history or theology, but have become curious about the rituals and terms of the early church as I’ve aged.
I love the way the prayers in the book read. There’s a lot of liturgy and a sense of ancient wisdom to the way the prayers should be read and the way the psalms should be sung.
As Tickle herself says in an attempt to explain the purpose of the book, “The Divine Hours are prayers of praise offered as a sacrifice of Thanksgiving and faith to God and as a sweet-smelling incense of the human soul before the throne of God. To offer them is to serve before that throne as part of the priesthood of all believers. It is to assume the ‘office’ of attendant upon the Divine.”
While this book is primarily meant for individual prayer, I’ve included the children in some of the readings during the day. The little boy has even taken part in reciting the Lord’s Prayer with me each time we come to it.
Before you begin thinking there’s no way you’d be able to set aside time to do this, let me mention that for each series of prayers, there’s a 3-4 hour time window to choose from. The final prayer of the day comes at bedtime, and by that I mean whatever time you go to bed on that specific day.
It has taken me no more than five minutes to get through each reading, and it has been time well spent. I find in the moments immediately following each reading that I have peace of mind and a calm and patient aura. I also find myself longing for the next series of prayers to begin.
I'll end today's post with one of the readings from the compline (the final prayers before bedtime) last night. This portion was labeled a reading instead of a prayer, but it's impact on me was just a powerful as the prayers themselves:
"When we read the lives of the saints, we are struck by a certain large leisure which went hand in hand with remarkable effectiveness. They were never hurried; they did comparatively few things, and these not necessarily striking or important; and they troubled very little about their influence. Yet they always seemed to hit the mark; their simplest actions had a distinction, an exquisiteness that suggest the artist. The reason is not so far to seek. Their sainthood lay in their habit of referring the smallest actions to God. They lived in God; they acted from a pure motive of love towards God. They were free from self-regard as from slavery to the good opinion of others. God saw and God rewarded: what else did they need? They possessed God and possessed themselves in God. Hence the inalienable dignity of the meek, quiet figures that seem to produce such marvelous effects with such humble materials."